ART & ORGANISM
What you need to know,
but this is A&O, so first, read DELACROIX on ART as COMMUNICATION
and then some DEEP ETHOLOGY
COMMUNICATIONS is an enables CONNECTEDNESS, without which there would be no meaning or existence as we understand it. Drilling down to the sub-atomic or reaching up to the cosmic we quickly feel we are on a thin edge of reality between two incomprehensibly limitless abysses–a ripple on the ocean of reality. Even a glimpse of its beauty and terror is sublime and can be transformative. But, in fact, it is often so unsettling in complexity or controversy that we “bracket it”–set it aside and move on (see A&O on EPOCHE); unfortunately (or maybe not) bracketing becomes denial. It is the limitless mystery that leads, in Einstein’s view, to true religion. (Read Einstein’s reply to Phyllis)
BUT CONNECTEDNESS is this way can never be complete (“For in spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody.” Aldous Huxley in “Sermons in Cats”). Arguably what is important is the EFFORT to communicate–to transmit the best possible approximation of what is in the sender’s mind.
At some deep level we seem to be hard-wired to appreciate STORIES
communications and art
after thinking about what Delacroix said…
The communicator’s skill involves modifying the state of mind of the audience (even if the audie
The communicator’s skill involves modifying the state of mind of the audience (even if the audience is yourself )
The Primacy of communicating with your self (resonating with speech: “WE speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. (Oliver Sacks (1989), from Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf) now look at https://vimeo.com/140656660
(As we speak from and to different levels of consciousness, the most superficial communication is “small talk” … superficial, but it’s a start.)
I heard commentary this morning (3/31/2018) on NPR about a new book, World Make Way: New Poems inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (“Lee Bennett Hopkins and the Metropolitan Museum of Art asked a number of poets to look at great classic art from the museum’s collection and reflect their feelings in new poems.”)
BUT POEMS are mostly WORDS and I often find myself agreeing with Joseph Campbell, that “The best things can’t be told…” (link)
Our problem is that words end up folding in on themselves, closing you off from what they refer to, their meaning … and as Mark Johnson says, “Meaning is more than words, and deeper than concepts.”
BUT nevertheless, words have POWER: Their meaning enlarges with iteration and significantly with transformation from inception to coordination with other words, with thinking them in unspoken narrative streams, subvocalization, speaking of the words aloud (even to one’s self), writing them down, and remarkably, when speaking them to others–with or without a script. (Most conversation is completely intuitive, some conversation skips from inception to verbal expression (“think before you talk!” my mother said often): At each level and with each repetition they change, and we change:
UT words go further: the cognitive phenomena they evoke can be salubrious: They …are the physicians of a mind diseased. (Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound. line 378.) And John Milton said, “Apt words have power to suage / The tumours of a troubl’d mind” (in Samson Agonistes.)
METACOMMUNICATION: communication about communication. When communicating, we often transmit (consciously or not) messages inside (or alongside) messages –highly variable, depending on the media that predominates and the messages communicated. (see NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION) (are eye-to-eye (oxytocin-evoking) communication and mirror neurons forms of communication?
As in many communicative systems, ART takes advantage of the capacity for METACOMMUNICATION. like all communications, “metacommunication is a form of communication that means different things at different levels. . . . The concept of metacommunication was introduced by Gregory Bateson and others. . . . In its basic form, a metacommunication is an act of communication between two agents that also communicates something about the communication itself, or about the relationship between the two agents, or both. Metacommunication is one of the characteristic features of complex systems.
WHAT forms of communication underlie or take place alongside a given expression or perception of art that serves to supplement, complement, or enhance it? … provide an instance of this.
In other words, specific aspects of signals (context, intensity, tone) can be more-or-less subtly adjusted to affect meaning. Saying “yes” when your eyes say “no,” tone of voice, associated with play signals — all the physical attributes can affect meaning and are thus options natural selection can work on to evolve new signals (see ritualization). “Body language” and facial expressions are as potent as tone of voice or volume in communicative signal. “Humans can detect facial expressions of both simple, basic emotions and expressions reflecting more complex states of mind. The latter includes emotional expressions that regulate social interactions (“social expressions” such as looking hostile or friendly) and expressions that reflect the inner thought state of others (“cognitive expressions” such as looking pensive).”
… “To explore the neural substrate of this skill . . . Lesions to all of the right prefrontal cortex—not just the ventromedial portions—led to a specific deficit in recognizing complex social expressions with a negative valence. The deficit in the group with right prefrontal cortical damage may contribute to the disturbances in social behavior associated with such lesions. The results also suggest that the amygdala has a role in processing a wide range of emotional expressions.” (Shaw et al. (2005) Differential Effects of Lesions of the Amygdala and Prefrontal Cortex on Recognizing Facial Expressions of Complex Emotions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.17:1410-1419)
MUSIC has extraordinary communicative power (see A&O notes on MUSIC) and in particular when combined with speech. Different languages aresometimes characterised as mor-or-less musical, but whatver the details, they all exhibit PROSODY — a metacommunicative “musical” quality of speech reflecting its underlying emotionality by means of duration, intensity, frequency, and “smoothness” of change. It can be regarded as an affective component of speech AND in humans, seems to be dominated by the RIGHT cerebral hemisphere (as opposed to the typical propositional language in the LEFT hemisphere). There are interesting developmental implications: Find out about “motherese” as a form of verbal communication.
Terms & Concepts related to communications: Communication (ethological and sociobiological definitions), Physical attributes of Communication, (and with respect to communication, compare & contrast the terms, vegetative, tonic, phasic, symbolic; adaptive, coevolution, signal-to-noise ratio; , Discrete signals, Graded (continuous) signals, Composite signals, Metacommunication, Functions of Communication, Neighbor recognition (“Dear enemy”), Channels of communication (advantages and disadvantages), Intention movements, Displacement activity; Kin recognition, Phenotype matching; Compare and contrast: Priming Pheromones & Signaling Pheromones; Discrete signals & Graded (continuos) signals
Evolution of communications:
- ritualization, (and with respect to ritualization, define, compare & contrast, primary and secondary somatic responses and autonomic reflexes — Intention movements, perseverance,”snap decision” responses, ambivalent responses, alternating ambivalent movements,displacement, redirection,regressive, alimentary, circulatory, respiratory, thermoregulatory, lacrimatory, schematization, typical intensity, emancipation. Consider the advantages and disadvantage of different sensory modalities (tactile, sound (pressure waves) . . . etc) (READ A&O notes on ritualization)
- cultural evolution of language: “A growing body of research undermines prevailing ideas that humans possess an innate language ability somehow wired into our brains, encoding grammatical rules. In our new book, The Language Game, we argue that language isn’t about rules at all. As Cook’s encounter illustrates, it is about improvisation, freedom and the desire to be understood, constrained only by our imaginations.” ( Christiansen & Chater (2022) (READ: how-language-evolved-a-new-idea-suggests-its-all-just-a-game/ )
DEFINITIONS OF COMMUNICATION
- “an action on the part of one organism (or cell) that alters the probability pattern of behavior in another organism (or cell) in a fashion adaptive to either one or both of the participants” (Wilson (1975) quoted by AB4 ch12 p216).
- “Any sharing of information” (Smith (1984) in AB4; ch12 p216).
- “the transmission of a signal from one animal to another such that the sender benefits, on average, from the response of the recipient” (Slater (1983) in AB4; ch12 p216).
remember: the term “ADAPTIVE” in these (as in most) contexts, implies “some genetic control and the action of natural selection” BUT is it adaptive to communicate your presence to a predator? What is “coevolution?”
Physical attributes of communication:
3. Channel (modality, can be almost any sense)
4. Noise (“background”)
6. Signal (indicates internal state , potential actions of sender)
SIGNALS can be
1. Discrete or Graded (digital or analog)
2. Combined to create a new meaning: composite signals; varying syntax (order of presentation of components)
What interactions can be called communication?
1. Vegetative (growth, tropism: plants, protists, sponges)
2. Tonic (sustained “tone” — metabolic processes, by-products; protists and typical lower metazoans, but occasionally higher forms)
3. Phasic level (sudden change in “tone” or an “event” –specialization of emitter and receiver organisms)
4. Signal level (specialized structures (biosocial level (controlled by organic processes such as repro, parental care) and psychosocial level (complex patterns with increasing role of experience, especially social)
5. Symbolic (develops through social interaction)
6. Language (abstract)
- any detectable trait of another organism is a potential signal at every level of organization.
For example, EYES: A high priority signal between humans (all vertebrates?) is provided by eyes: their size, large, small, color, micromovements of surrounding muscles, pupil dilation. We affect each other by eye-contact, even physiologically (the oxytocin-gaze positive loop) and even with (some) other species (e.g., dogs: see Nagasawa et al., 2015) Take a look at a recent BBC article, “Why Meeting Another’s Gaze is So Powerful” by By Christian Jarrett (8 January 2019). (the idea that emerges about brains affecting each other by means of eyes gives extra meaning to what the great artist, DELACROIX, said)
DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNICATION
The bird models. Birds are very diverse. Many species have only calls (simpler, non-reproductive sounds) while the order Passeriformes (“songbirds,” or “perching birds”) have songs (complex reproductive vocalizations).
In non-passerines, calls (including those of reproduction) are relatively “impervious to environmental effects” (the isolation experiment does not affect their calls). BUT passerines range in song complexity from cowbirds that have fairly species-typical songs (North American Cowbirds (like European cuckoos) are parasitic on other birds. Females raised in isolation will not respond to the calls of any male except one of her own species; then she will immediately adopt the “copulatory posture” (a good sign-stimulus IRP FAP) (King and West 1977 cited by J.T. Bonner 1980) through mynahs and some starlings that can imitate other organisms. Sparrows represent an intermediate species with respect to song development: they modify their songs during development but only within limits.
In E.O. Wilson’s view, “Perhaps the single most important result [of studying bird song] has been the demonstration of the programmed nature of learning in the ontogeny of song, a lock-step relation that exists between particular stimuli, particular acts of learning, and the short sensitive periods in which they can be linked to produce normal communication” (1975s:80).
ECOLOGY of COMMUNICATIONS
OPTIMALITY is a major issue: signals can simultaneously inform, attract, repel, or confuse friends and foes alike. Ask questions about how the biotic and abiotic elements of the environment, each or in combination, can make one communicative modality more or less expensive. –For example, many signals that communicate the presence and vigor of a male (interested in mating) might also attract predators.
“People can be tempted to be dishonest with one another: to exaggerate our income to someone we’re dating, for example, or, conversely, to understate our income to the Internal Revenue Service. Although morality does play a role in the degree of truth imparted in the messages that we actually deliver, we also use a rational calculation of costs and benefits to decide whether to dissemble. But when animals communicate, we don’t necessarily expect individuals to make decisions based on either moral standards or societal rules. Rather, we expect the rules determining the honesty of a signal to be imposed by natural selection, with costs and benefits ultimately measured in terms of relative reproductive success. How natural selection works to keep animal signals reliable, and the nature of the outcome, is currently a central question in animal behavior. Bird song provides an excellent model for exploring the mechanisms that keep animals honest as they pursue mates or defend their territory, and may ultimately help us to understand how communication, including our own, has evolved.” (from William A. Searcy, Stephen Nowicki (2008) “Bird Song and the Problem of Honest Communication” American Scientist, March-April: 96: 114-121)
EVOLUTION of COMMUNICATIONS
In my own research seeking the brain structures involved in social communications, I needed a detailed account of the structure of the signal system in the species I chose as a model animal, the green anolis lizard; (Greenberg 1977) as well as a detailed atlas of the animal’s brain (Greenberg 1982). This program enabled findings that helped clarify neural and endocrine elements in the behavioral ecology of my model species, but was of necessity conducted in a laboratory. While making every effort to simulate the environmental and social context of the behavior patterns studied, it could never speak to behavioral evolution more broadly.
Emphasizing lizards, Ord (et al. 2002) open their review of Ecology and Signal Evolution with a good general statement: “It is widely recognized that [the great diversity in the variation of diversity in signals] reflects the action of a range of selective pressures and constraints, so the essential first step is to compile a comprehensive list of evolutionary forces. Current theoretical models incorporate a variety of social … and environmental factors…. Social systems and spacing patterns influence the distance over which a signal must function. Receiver sensory systems constrain the structure of signals to those that are perceivable …, while habitat structure determines signal degradation ….
Ritualization is the evolutionary process whereby normal motor patterns or fragments of motor patterns (“primary somatic responses”) or motor patterns expressed in unconventional contexts (“secondary somatic responses”) develop communicative function. Then, it has any communicative function, there is selection pressure to make it a more effective or efficient means of communication. Any attribute of an animal upon which natural selection can act–behavioral, physiological, developmental, or morphological traits–can be the basis of a communicative signal. [more on ritualization]
Verbal vs Non-verbal evolution in humans: In recent years and alternative hypothesis about the evolution of language has emerged. Many researchers now believe that hand gestures preceded speech. IF the GESTURE HYPOTHESIS is correct, then gestures should have different meanings in different contexts (including corollary gestures). Amy Pollick and Hans de Waal have observed and reported on this in the Proceedings of the NAS (2007): They observed 31 gestures and 18 facial or vocal signals. The vocal signals meant the same thing in different species but the gestures had different meanings in different contexts. BUT ALSO, vocalizations can be regarded as a specialized sort of gesture … in that it is muscle control but in larynx, tongue, and mouth control of respiratory movements — turns out that the brain areas responsible for creating & understanding speech (Broca’s and Brodmann’s areas of the left hemisphere) also have some control of gesture. NS 05May2007
Delacroix’s mind might speak to the mind of an observer by means of a painting. Different media, different minds … music, sculpture… the affordances of the stimuli, the predilections of the recipient … whatever the media, it’s mind to mind. And what we know best about mind-to-mind communicating comes from recent research At least in verbal communicating, Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication. Stephens, Silbert, and Hasson (2010; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1008662107) were able to use fMRI to record the brain activity of a speaker telling an unrehearsed real-life story and the brain activity of a listener…” They hypothesized that “the speaker’s brain activity during production is spatially and temporally coupled with the brain activity measured across listeners during comprehension. During communication, we expect significant production/comprehension couplings to occur if speakers use their comprehension system to produce speech, and listeners use their production system to process the incoming auditory signal.” They found “Significant speaker–listener coupling was found in early auditory areas (A1+), superior temporal gyrus, angular gyrus, temporoparietal junction (these areas are also known as Wernicke’s area), parietal lobule, inferior frontal gyrus (also known as Broca’s area), and the insula. Although the function of these regions is far from clear, they have been associated with various production and comprehension linguistic processes (15–17). Moreover, both the parietal lobule and the inferior frontal gyrus have been associated with the mirror neuron system (18). Finally, we also observed significant speaker–listener coupling in a collection of extralinguistic areas known to be involved in the processing of semantic and social aspects of the story (19), including the precuneus, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, striatum, and medial prefrontal cortex.”
The authors thus believe that their “findings suggest that, on the systems level, the coupling between action-based and perception-based processes is extensive and widely used across many brain areas. … the recording of the neural activity from both the speaker brain and the listener brain opens a new window into the neural basis of interpersonal communication, and may be used to assess verbal and nonverbal forms of interaction in both human and other model systems (45). Further understanding of the neural processes that facilitate neural coupling across interlocutors may shed light on the mechanisms by which our brains interact and bind to form societies.
Other dimensions of brain-to-brain coupling are indicated by
Pictures to Words. A hypothesized origin for written language takes inspiration from the observation that many symbols are represented in ancient cave art throughout the world. Presumably a consequence of shared human biology or impulse. Paintings seemed likely to represent entopic phosphenes and Handprints? (see Paleolithic Hand stencil project at Durham) (then Genevieve von Petzinger on symbols found in caves all over Europe: TED talk on You Tube).
Also, in Asian art studies we can find an unexpected connection between written communications and representational art. “… it is common knowledge that Chinese poetry, calligraphy, and painting, known as san-chiieh, or the three perfections, have been practiced together in single works of art. … The ideas that painting and poetry are interchangeable modes of expression and that an artist can readily transpose his creative impulse from one mode to the other tend to obscure their true relationship and their respective functions. Language and visual images are two distinct forms of expression; the imposition of one upon the other can either enhance or detract from their individual contributions. … “It was Su Shih (1037-1 101), the leading scholar-artist of the late Northern Sung dynasty, who first advocated that there is “poetry in painting and painting in poetry.” In an effort to represent true landscape, early Northern Sung painters first concentrated on capturing the principles of nature. As the painter felt the increasing need to express emotional response in his landscape, he turned to poetry for inspiration.” (from Wen C. Fong And Alfreda Murck (1991) “Introduction: The Three Perfections: Poetry, Calligraphy, and Painting.” In: Words and Images: Chinese Poetry, Calligraphy, and Painting. (Edited By Alfreda Murck and Wen C. Fong) Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Princeton University Press. (p. xv)
PHYSIOLOGY of COMMUNICATIONS
What questions can you ask about proximate cause of a communicative act — and the input, integration, and output of stimuli (information) that evokes a communicative act. “Ritualization” tells us that many physiological processes (like anatomical structures) have multiple functions. Some of these can be built on to reveal specific aspects of the inner state of the communicator
CELL SIGNALLING MODEL:
“heart-to-heart art” (mentioned above) is communication from the productive artist to the receptive viewer by means of a medium (e.g. a work of art) is more meaningful, effective to the extent that it emerges from the deepest part of self the artist has access to and penetrates to deepest part of self that the receiver will allow.
and the resemblance of this –its DEEP structure–to cell signaling in organisms is worth exploring: Here, A cell specialized for the purpose (like an artist) produces a signal (like a work of art) that stimulates a cell specialized to receive the signal) IF resources are available (e.g., cholesterol molecule) a chemical is produced (e.g., a steroid) in a cell specialized for the function and is transmitted (e.g., in circulation) to another cell that possesses more-or-less specialized molecules (e.g., receptors embedded in the cell membrane) that can recognize the molecule and allow it into the cell where it may activate or suppress chromosomal activity and an appropriate response) (from notes on PHENOMENOLOGY-INTERSUBJECTIVITY)
Physiology note: Irvine, Calif. , October 20, 2004 — High stress levels during infancy and early childhood can lead to the poor development of communication zones in brain cells – a condition found in mental disorders such as autism, depression and mental retardation. — http://today.uci.edu/news/release_detail.asp?key=1230
Predators and prey, competitors and cooperators, often communicate, sharing information in a mutually adaptive way.
- This doesn’t mean that prey does not get eaten, but it can serve various functions that enhance efficiency: an antelope that can escape a cheetah begins stotting, or the weak or wounded display their infirmity to the benefit of their social group and the predator.
Most communication we speak of in A&O is between individuals –but perhaps you’ve always noticed that I often allude to communications WITHIN as well as BETWEEN individuals. There are multiple layers of organization within and between cells and organs of an organism that utilize ELECTRICAL and CHEMICAL COMMUNICATION. Cell communication deals with the vast and complex processes beneath surface of the organism–us–as it presents itself to the world and its selection pressures. A basic grounding in these deeper phenomena beneath all surfaces deserves a glance: look at the journal NATURE’s notes on cell-communication.
“Language is a universal skill in humans that develops even when children are raised in impoverished linguistic environments. In contrast, nonhuman primates–even when reared in the most supportive surroundings–appear unable to learn language beyond the level of a two- or three-year-old child. Identifying the evolutionary changes that underlie human language, however, has proved to be an extremely difficult problem. The anatomical changes to the supralaryngeal vocal tract that support language co-occurred with changes in brain structure, and language itself evolved over time, leading to a dynamic interplay between biology, function, and environment (Christiansen & Kirby. 2003. Trends in Cognit. Sci.7:300). To complicate matters, language apparently evolved only once and has left no fossil records.” (from JT Devlin’s review of Toward an Evolutionary Biology of Language. by Philip Lieberman; Science 10 Nov 2006 314:926-927) (more)
Detecting the emotional tone of a verbal signal. When people hear words spoken with anger, sadness, relief, joy or no emotion, the fMRI brain scans indicated that listeners distinguished the emotions. Using a multivariate pattern analysis of activity in the auditory cortex, by using a method called multivariate pattern analysis, according to researcher Thomas Ethofer, “We demonstrated that the spatial pattern of activity within the brain that processes human voices contains information about the expressed emotion.” SOURCE: Current Biology, May 14, 2009. Other species?
Exchange on a specific sort of poetic metacommunications: “What may be lost in immediate comprehension is made up by the energy forced into images by the compression of verb and noun and adjective into phrases” — More (disconnected link)
SELF RECOGNITION and even SPECIES RECOGNITION can be a communications issue. Behavior can be affected by the perceived species identity of another individual. This can and has been be exploited by humans for political purposes — More (disconnected link)
[i] Along with Protagoras was Gorgias (c.485-c.380 B.C.E.), another sophist whose namesake became the title of a Platonic dialogue. … His most well-known work is On Nature, Or On What-Is-Not wherein he, contrary to Eleatic philosophy, sets out to show that neither being nor non-being is, and that even if there were anything, it could be neither known nor spoken. Finally, Gorgias proclaims that even if existence could be apprehended, “it would be incapable of being conveyed to another” (B3.83). This is because what we reveal to another is not an external substance, but is merely logos … . Logos is not “substances and existing things” (B3.84). External reality becomes the revealer of logos (B3.85); while we can know logos, we cannot apprehend things directly. … the [mental] representation is different than the thing itself.
 in: Mary E. Pharis (2004) in her review of: Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self and Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self by Allan N Schore (2003). Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Spring 2004, pp. 33-34.)